Sadly, we’ve reached the final of the Great British Bake Off 2021
Can it be so? Surely this year’s Great British Bake Off can’t be over already? The last 10 weeks have whipped by, and we’re now so familiar with the bakers in the tent, they almost feel like our own friends. This current series has seen more Paul Hollywood handshakes than any other, and this batch of bakers are some of the best we’ve ever witnessed.
Tuesday evening saw the tense final, and after last week’s semi-final watched through my fingers, I didn’t think it could get any worse, but I was mistaken. GBBO 2021’s final, felt like the most stressy in the history of Bake Off, with all three remaining contestants having now become so accomplished, nothing could separate them, and any one of them could easily have taken the title. It was around week seven I began to realise that, as the weeks have passed, the show has gradually turned into something more serious, and slightly less fun. Luckily, we still have one final ‘Extra Slice’ to look forward to for a spot of light-heartedness, with camp comedian Tom Allen and Jo Brand at the helm.
The show began with a final signature challenge request, for an “exquisitely decorated carrot cake.” This may sound pretty basic to an amateur baker like me, but HELLO – this is the Bake-Off Final, so there is nothing basic to see here. Giuseppe decided to give himself the hardest hurdle to overcome, by baking one giant carrot cake, instead of smaller layers like the other two contestants. This meant his cake couldn’t cool quickly enough, so he had to precariously slice it into layers while still hot. “It’s breaking in front of my eyes,” he said in despair. Fortunately, it was about to be covered in a thick creamy frosting (or icing as the English call it), and we all know frosting is frequently used to mask even the dodgiest looking disasters.
Giuseppe had made a fig and walnut jam to separate the layers between his carrot cake, but this added to its moistness. “Mine looks like my face over the years – it’s melting down,” he said. The end result was sadly much damper than he would have liked, but even so, the judges both agreed it was still “utterly delicious.”
Crystelle’s three layered pistachio and orange carrot cake looked very pretty, with its mint green coating, but was more than slightly lopsided, where she’d also had no choice but to begin decoration, before her cakes were sufficiently cooled. Still, both judges agreed it tasted “very good.“
Chigs, sadly, didn’t fare quite so well with his pineapple jam filled carrot cake, beautifully decorated with intricately carved, minute carrots. But the cake’s texture just wasn’t quite right, as it was “too stodgy,” and so didn’t go down well with Paul and Prue.
Next, we moved on to the final technical of the series, and the bakers were asked to make 12 perfectly formed Belgian buns, with a lemon curd filling, zig-zag icing, and with a cherry on top. As ever, the judges were cruel and wickedly only gave two instructions on the baker’s recipe sheets – ‘Make 12 Belgian buns and bake at 180 degrees.’
Crystelle was the only one of the three who had actually seen a Belgian bun before, and she won her first ever technical challenge, as her finished buns appeared perfect in every conceivable way, just how one would expect to find them if bought from a supermarket or bakery. Guiseppe did amazingly well, if you take into consideration the fact that he’d never even seen a Belgian bun before, or made a lemon or any other kind of curd. His buns looked perfectly proportioned, but sadly he left them in the oven for a few minutes too long, so they were overbaked, too dark, and “dry as a bone,” according to Paul Hollywood.
Chigs had failed to roll his enriched dough in the right direction, so his buns were too chunky and tall, without enough of a swirl in their centre – so it was now beginning to look like Chigs was highly unlikely to become our underdog winner.
Then, for the final showstopper and the last bake of the series, the bakers were asked to make a ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party display,’ including both savoury and sweet bakes.
At this point, Noel decided it might be the perfect time to lighten the mood, so he came around to each baker’s work station with Mr Spatula, saying that if they kissed it, it would reveal who the winner was. Both Crystelle and Chigs flatly refused, but Giuseppe decided to show what a fun guy he is, and gave in to Noel’s bizarre request, and conceded to give Mr Spatula a quick peck.
Shortly after this, Giuseppe almost had heart failure, when he attempted to put his fig muffins into his oven, and realised he hadn’t closed the door properly, so it had automatically switched itself off and was stone cold. Somehow, he managed to get past this, and went on to finish all the elements of his ‘What is the Hatter with me’ display. This included a tear and share loaf, purple iced, lurid green, cream cheese filled choux buns, and three layered mango and vanilla panna cottas in a bottle, with the words ‘drink me’ written on their tiny tags. Both Paul and Prue enjoyed these so much, Paul decided to finish his, despite knowing he still faced another 17 bakes, and Prue delightedly declared they were “absolute bliss!”
Crystelle’s display looked gloriously bizarre – exactly how you would want a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to be presented. Placing her bright green, hot water pastry covered hats (filled with curry) into her oven she said, “good luck hats, please be good to me!” and this obviously did the trick, as Paul was pleasantly surprised with the outcome and, once again, said that as always, her flavours were “spot on.” But poor Crystelle had somehow made a horrible hash of her focaccia. Noone quite knew exactly where she’d gone wrong, but it was raw and completely inedible. Was this the moment that would eliminate Crystelle’s chances of becoming this year’s winner?
Chigs produced a masterpiece of a showstopper including tiny clock faces, hand drawn, onto melt-in-the-mouth biscuits, and a shortcake, jam-filled pack of cards, all displayed on a black and white chessboard background. His quirky looking mushroom shaped brioche creations, also appeared aptly appropriate in his display.
The bakers used every last remaining second of the challenge, before heaving a collective sigh of relief for the very last time, and sharing one final group hug.
After much deliberation and cogitation from the judges, it was eventually decided that Giuseppe should be awarded the GBBO 2021 title, for his perfect bakes and consistently high-quality results throughout the entire show. Tears were shed all around, and everyone agreed Guiseppe was absolutely the very deserving winner. Paul Hollywood, like me, had guess it would be Giuseppe from the very first show.
Back in my sitting room, I’m already looking forward to GBBO 2022 – despite the bakes becoming more and more bonkers each year!